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2012-03-13

Ceasefire Reached After Israeli Air Strikes Killed 26 Palestinians in Gaza

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As Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip reportedly agree to a ceasefire after four days of cross-border violence, we speak with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the online publication, “The Electronic Intifada.” Earlier today, an Egyptian official said both sides have pledged to end current attacks and implement "a comprehensive and mutual calm." Israel’s latest strikes on Gaza killed at least 25 Palestinians. At least 80 Palestinians were also wounded, most of them civilians. At least four Israelis in border towns were wounded in rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The rocket attacks began after an Israeli air strike killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Friday. Most of the Palestinian victims were killed on Saturday, making it the deadliest 24-hour period Gaza has seen since the Israeli attack in December 2008 and January 2009 when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. “Israel presents this as they’re attacking terrorists who are en route to commit some kind of attack, and that’s the claim they always make,” Abunimah says. “But in fact, in almost every case, they’re attacking people in their homes, riding in cars, just walking in the street.” [Rush transcript to come. Check back soon.]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire after four days of cross-border violence. Earlier today an Egyptian official said both sides have pledged to end current attacks and implement, quote, "a comprehensive and mutual calm."

Israel’s latest strikes on Gaza killed at least 26 Palestinians, including five civilians. At least 80 Palestinians were also wounded, most of them civilians. Four Israelis in border towns were wounded in rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The rocket attacks began after an Israeli air strike killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Friday. Most of the Palestinian victims were killed on Saturday, making it the deadliest 24-hour period Gaza has seen since the Israeli attack in December 2008 and January 2009. Around 1,400 Palestinians were killed in that assault, most of them civilian.

Israel launched this latest attack on Gaza just after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from a critical U.S. visit where he failed to win President Obama’s backing for military action against Iran.

For more now, we go to Chicago to be joined by Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Can you talk about what is being reported as a truce brokered by Egypt, Ali Abunimah, and what took place over this last four days?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Good morning, Amy. Yes.

I think it’s very important to stress that this escalation of violence began on Friday with an extrajudicial execution by Israel of Zuhair al-Qaisi and several other people in Gaza. And that’s important because, you know, Israel presents this as they’re attacking terrorists who are en route to commit some kind of attack, and that’s the claim they always make, but in fact, in almost every case, they’re attacking people in their homes, riding in cars, just walking in the street. And there have been hundreds of such extrajudicial executions in recent years, where, essentially, Palestinians that Israel doesn’t like are sentenced to death in secret and in absentia and then executed on the streets of the Gaza Strip or sometimes the West Bank. And so, that’s what happened on Friday.

As was predicted by many Israeli military analysts, resistance factions in Gaza retaliated by firing rockets at Israel. No one was killed in any of the rockets. And interestingly, Hamas did not participate in the retaliatory strikes because, much to Israel’s displeasure, Hamas has been consistently moving away from armed struggle. So what happened, as typically, is that the retaliatory strikes, the rocket strikes from Gaza, then become the self-justifying motive for Israel to escalate its bombing of Gaza, and that’s exactly what happened this weekend with a terrible, terrible toll. And unfortunately, this pattern has repeated many times. Whenever there is a substantial reduction of violence or a ceasefire to which Palestinian groups are largely adhering, Israel comes up with some pretext or some attack in order to violate it. It’s just happened so many times, the pattern is clear.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the cross-border violence between Israel and factions in Gaza in a speech at the U.N. Security Council. She condemned the Palestinian rocket fire but said nothing about Israel’s deadly attacks on Palestinians.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Let me also condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, which continued over the weekend. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these attacks. We call on both sides, all sides, to make every effort to restore calm.

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, your response?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, the U.S. government policy is completely in line with and driven by the Israeli propaganda message that Palestinians are always the ones responsible and always the ones who start this, when in fact the Palestinian factions were largely adhering to a ceasefire, and Hamas was, if anything, enforcing the ceasefire and disciplining any small Palestinian groups that violated it. But the message from U.S. and Israeli propaganda is always about barrages of rockets from Gaza over Israel. Well, what are the facts? In 2011, 108 Palestinians—15 children and large numbers of civilians—were killed, and many hundreds more injured, by constant barrages of Israeli missiles and firing over the Gaza Strip. Those are the facts that nobody talks about.

But there was another interesting thing Hillary Clinton said in her statement yesterday, when she was talking about Syria. She said that there’s no—

AMY GOODMAN: Let me—Ali, Ali, let me go to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—

ALI ABUNIMAH: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: —at the U.N. Security Council, another comment she made, talking about the right of self-defense versus unlawful state violence. She was invoking the crisis in Syria and said the U.S. rejects any equivalence between state violence and besieged populations defending themselves. This is a segment of her speech.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Now the United States believes firmly in the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member states, but we do not believe that sovereignty demands that this council stand silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening regional peace and security in the process. And we reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defense.

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, your response to Hillary Clinton?

ALI ABUNIMAH: I mean, it’s incredible to hear those words and then look at the—of course, she was referring to Syria—and then look at the situation in Palestine, where Israel is carrying out premeditated murders, extrajudicial executions—these are war crimes under international law—and then using that as a pretext, using the response as a pretext to carry out widespread bombing over civilian areas in the Gaza Strip.

And so, I mean, the question to Hillary Clinton, I wish there were some real journalists who attend these daily State Department briefings, to ask: "Look, do Palestinians ever have a right to self-defense? After 63 years of dispossession, of occupation, of siege, can Palestinians ever be considered 'civilians under siege driven to self-defense'? And if so, what do they have a right to do? Please let us know, because it seems that when Palestinians observe ceasefires, as is demanded of them by the world, they’re attacked. When they engage in Gandhi-like protest, they’re attacked." Hana al-Shalabi, a woman prisoner, is now on her 27th day of hunger strike in Hasharon Prison, being detained without charge or trial by Israel, along with hundreds of other so-called administrative detainees. Almost every other day, Hillary Clinton is making speeches about women and women’s rights. What about the rights of Hana al-Shalabi and her family?

AMY GOODMAN: Last question. We just have 30 seconds. Ali, you went to speak at Harvard two weekends ago at the Kennedy School. You’re the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, and that’s what it was about, the two-state versus the one-state solution. But a great deal of controversy was generated right before the conference went on, though it ultimately did. Can you just briefly explain what happened, why we don’t have video of the event?

ALI ABUNIMAH: There is some video. There wasn’t official video, and I don’t know why the organizers didn’t do that. But some of the keynotes we have on The Electronic Intifada. But there was a huge outcry from national Zionist groups, and Senator Scott Brown, a Republican of Massachusetts, actually demanded that Harvard cancel the conference. So, real attacks on free speech and academic freedom by national politicians and major pro-Israel groups in this country. But this is what they’re afraid of. They’re afraid of discussion about equal rights and just solutions in Palestine. And that’s what they wanted to stop. But the conference was a tremendous success. Hundreds of people were there. It was completely sold out. They turned people away. And I think it’s very good that this discussion is coming into the mainstream. They weren’t able to stop it happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, I want to thank you very much for being with us, co-founder of Electronic Intifada

ALI ABUNIMAH: My pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: —author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

In 30 seconds, we’ll be back with Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, speaking to us from Geneva, Switzerland, where he is about to address the United Nations Human Rights Council about the erosion of voting rights in the United States. Stay with us.

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